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General: Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss battle to be the next Conservative leader

Conservative leadership hopefuls Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss were happy to let loose at times as they went at it in their first head-to-head debate on Monday night.

After a previous debate to be aired on Sky News was cancelled due to fears it would cast the party in a bad light following the often fiery exchanges between the candidates earlier in the campaign, there were signs Monday's talk could head the same way.

The BBC's Sophie Raworth did a generally good job of keeping everyone cool but there were moments when things threatened to boil over as Mr Sunak and Ms Truss exchanged barbs across the stage at Stoke-on-Trent's Victoria Hall.

Things ended on a calmer note, with both praising the other's exploits while serving under the departing Boris Johnson.

However, neither appeared to make significant ground in the battle to become Johnson's successor as both the leader of the Conservative Party and the 78th Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

CandidateOdds to be Next Conservative Leader
Rishi Sunak3/1
Liz Truss1/4

A taxing debate

As has been the case throughout the process, each candidate found their tax plans called into question. Ms Truss has campaigned on a ticket to cut taxes, something Mr Sunak suggested would "tip millions of people into misery".

Ms Truss has said she would abolish plans for a rise in National Insurance, scrap corporation tax increases and pause green levies on energy bills, with any possible shortfall to be made up through borrowing.

In contrast, Mr Sunak has said it would be wrong to try and pay things off on the "country's credit card", accusing his rival of delaying future hardship, insisting that it would be wrong to cut taxes until inflation stabilised.

Ms Truss countered that her plans would give the UK three years to pay back debts and provided the best way of staving off a potential recession.

International questions and the environment

Both candidates were also quizzed on their potential plans for foreign policy, notably China.

Ms Truss, who once said the UK was entering a "golden age" in their relationship with China, preached a tougher stance to avoid a similar situation to the ongoing issues with Russia.

Mr Sunak tread a similar path but neither had an answer when quizzed about the specifics of how they would try to get tough with the country's biggest individual import partner.

The pair also agreed on the government's approach in supporting Ukraine and were consistent in their views that using the Navy in the Black Sea would be wrong.

The candidates were also quizzed on their environmental plans, with Mr Sunak citing energy efficiency, improved recycling and looking to local markets. Meanwhile, Ms Truss quipped that she had been "a teenage eco-warrior before it was fashionable".

Both camps come out fighting

After Monday's debate, there was little time for the dust to settle as Truss' supporters came out to criticise Mr Sunak early on Tuesday morning.

Simon Clarke, the chief secretary to the Treasury, described Mr Sunak as being "certainly extremely aggressive" during the broadcast and questioning his "pretty intense" approach.

In response, former minister David Davis said Mr Sunak deserved praise for what he felt were his realistic warnings regarding the economy.

When is the new Conservative leader announced?

Both candidates will have a fresh chance to have their say in the leadership battle on Tuesday as part of The Sun's Showdown, which takes place on the Sun's Website and Talk TV at 18:00.

There is then a fresh debate on Sky News featuring questions from a studio audience on 4th August, with the following day the expected deadline for Tory members to receive their ballots.

The new Conservative leader will then be announced when Parliament returns from its summer recess on 5th September, with Johnson set to officially step down 24 hours later.

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